Tag Archives: NYSUT

Test Refusals in Southwestern NY – What’s going on?

There is so much going on in New York State around test refusals……rallies are being held everywhere it seems – except perhaps in Cattaraugus and Allegany Counties.

Last year, schools in these two counties had enormous numbers of refusals in proportion to their relatively small sizes. One school had a full ONE THIRD of students in grades 3-8 refuse the tests! You would think that the ball would be rolling faster and faster this year, with these schools’ Superintendents, Teachers and Parents leading the way. But, sadly that isn’t happening.

Shortly after the tests were given last year and refusal numbers came in – the BOCES Superintendent for CATT-ALLEGANY put out an urgent call to all school administrators in the districts in her region……… “WHY?”  and “What are you going to do to reduce the number of refusals next year?”  I may sound flip – but this was indeed the theme of her message – STOP the REFUSALS in 2015!! In fact, she (as rumor has it) demanded that districts give her “Plans for Reducing Refusals”.

It would do well for this writer to point out that this BOCES Superintendent is an experienced lawyer. She has NEVER been an educator, and in fact for many years was employed by BOCES to represent Districts in Contract Negotiations. For all I know, she is a lovely woman – more than likely she in fact IS a lovely woman. A lovely woman, a strong woman, an intelligent woman – doing her JOB. She is probably the kind of woman I’d like my daughter to be some day – working her way to a position that is to respected after many years of hard work. I have no personal grievance or even personal knowledge of  her. From the outside looking in – she has “made it” through the glass ceiling in a sense – she is BOCES Superintendent for crying out loud! KUDOS!

What I see coming from our BOCES Center is a push to enlist parent help in eliminating the GEA, which is a noble cause. What I don’t see coming from our BOCES Center is even a breath about supporting a parent’s right (and in the dire straits we face currently) encouragement to REFUSE the FLAWED TESTING and EVALUATION PLAN. It saddens me, because I know in my heart of hearts if there is going to be a revolution, a FIX to the mess in NYS – it’s not coming from them.

Perhaps this “doing the job”. Perhaps local district Superintendents are afraid – but it was rightly pointed out that these local Superintendents have nothing more to lose than any other Superintendent in NY by speaking out, by supporting parents, by making the refusal of the test a KEY POINT in sending a message to Albany and King Andy. It hurts my heart. It makes me angry. It makes me wonder what the end game looks like for districts in this region. We are a region of many small districts, rapidly losing student population and cutting staff on a regular basis.

Look through the component school directory, and see if you can find one district administrator explaining how refusing the tests is the way to end the madness. I can’t and neither can the parents.

Not to simply say that it’s “all BOCES fault”……..check around the lists of districts signing on to petitions to support a parent’s right to refuse – you won’t find us there either. Our NYSUT office doesn’t like hold those rallies either. Our local districts don’t like to hold those rallies. We hold “informational” meetings – but we have been told that the meetings must be “balanced” – yes, even on our own time. With constant staff cuts, there are very few who are willing to be vocal, and the few that were vocal last year are worn out and spread out – we have no network. We will travel to Buffalo for a rally (maybe if the weather is good and we are sure we wont’ be found out), but travel to Albany – that becomes a 24 hour saga. Syracuse – a 12 hour saga, and Rochester – a 6 hour saga………..

Understand that many of us KNOW what needs to be done and we sit at our monitors and cheer you on! We wish we could be you. We wish our Superintendents could be the ones you have standing arm in arm supporting  and encouraging test refusal – be we are already living in fear, and most of us want to hang on to what we have – even if we know in our hearts that it could all be taken from us anyway.

http://www.caboces.org/administration/contacts

http://www.caboces.org/component-school-directory

 

The NYSUT “Revival”

In light of the reports today that NYSUT is working to strong-arm the Working Families Party (they vehemently deny this is happening) and that NYSUT will remain silent at AFL-CIO endorsements for Andrew Cuomo, I feel it is necessary to revisit the “REVIVAL” that the leadership team elected in April promised us as NYSUT members. Interestingly, only a few days after the coup  election, the “Revive NYSUT” website and twitter accounts were either wiped clean or locked. In the days leading up the election, I printed several copies of the “Where We Stand” and “Action Plan” pages from the web site. I have held on to them for a couple of months – hoping that my gut feeling that this election would just bring new faces to same old problems was wrong.

Today, NYSUT tweeted 2 things that grabbed my attention. One was what can only be deemed a strongly worded reply to those saying that NYSUT was working behind the scenes to get the Working Families Party to endorse Cuomo. They tweeted: “NYSUT has NOT endorsed Cuomo nor pushed WFP to endorse him. All rumors to the contrary are false. There is no chance of it happening.”  The second was “NYSUT issues early endorsements for DiNapoli, Schneiderman” This was most interesting as the “REVIVAL” folks talked the talk about member engagement and transparency, yet on a Saturday afternoon the Board of Directors decided to issue early endorsements BEFORE the endorsement conference. Transparency? I suppose so, since they proudly tweeted it out, but member engagement? I hardly see how they can say that there was member engagement on these endorsements since there has NOT been an endorsement conference!

From their own campaign website: WHERE WE STAND

  • We will defend public education. Period. Ok, so there was the “Picket in the Pines” which NYSUT jumped on when some grassroots chatter was going on about attending and picketing the Gov’s “Philosophy Camp” in the Adirondacks. All one has to do is to follow the Long Island Opt Out folks on Facebook, and one would quickly see that grassroots demonstrations are happening all over LI defending public education – but NO NYSUT! WNYers4PublicEducation have held their fair share of events – NO NYSUT!  Perhaps all the defending goes on in the glass tower of Latham? Other than the Picket in the Pines-full of photo ops with Randi of AFT fame- I haven’t seen much defense of public education.
  • We bring experience.  Yes, they are experienced leaders. Yes, they are experienced educators but they also promised to “bring forward new ideas in these troubled times.” If a photo-op with Randi is a new idea – well, then I must have just fallen off the turnip truck because photo ops are NOT a new idea.
  • We do not support Common Core as it is. I was especially encouraged by the line “a curriculum that is developmentally appropriate”. However, visit the NYSUT web site and you will see they are still encouraging members to use and upload lessons to “Share My Lesson” – the AFT attempt to make it appear that teachers are just in LOVE with the CCSS and are having a grand old time writing lessons that are aligned with it. And, additionally, haven’t there been plenty of NYSUT members saying that the CCSS have to GO – not be fixed, not be more slowly implemented, not ‘tweaked’?
  • We do not support Iannuzzi’s APPR or the way it was created. Here’s their take: “When a Board of Directors vote was requested, Dick refused and kept local Presidents in the dark until the deal was done.” Uhm, sort of like the early endorsements??
  • We are not afraid of the Commissioner of Education and Regents. This is especially interesting, because when Meryl Tisch visited Buffalo, a BTF teacher asked for NYSUT to show up and protest. Buffalo Teachers’ Federation was asked to show up and protest. What did this dues paying member get?? CRICKETS! Not a one of them showed – not a NYSUT leader, not a NYSUT LRS, not a BTF leader.
  • We are for transparency.  You know what, they have this one right – I haven’t seen financials, but I do know that my dues keep going up. They also pledge to be “accountable to the membership.” I’m going to reserve judgement on this one for now.
  • The tax cap was a terrible mistake. “We will fight to get rid of the tax cap completely. Recognizing that this will not be an easy task or one achieved overnight, we will chip away at the cap by going after short – term exemptions.” I don’t think there was one exemption this year – but there were several districts that voted YES on school budgets that were over the cap.
  • OPT OUT “REVIVE supports a parent’s right to opt out of unnecessary state tests.” That’s great news, but I would love to see the crack legal team at NYSUT also supporting the right of members to have an opinion outside of the school day – so that the unnecessary harassment of teachers who also support a parent’s right to opt out STOPS!
  • Social justice to bring real change.  “We will continue to establish REAL coalitions, not only in name but instead in action.” Don’t see it happening, don’t hear about it being planned ……and heck, I still get the weekly leader briefing. Maybe if so much space wasn’t taken up promoting “Share My Lesson” I would see social justice there.
  • We support NYSUT Constituency Groups. Unless you’re in MORE, or in the North Country, or in Western NY, or in Southwestern NY …… hmm…. UFT UNITY much?
  • Ed Reform “NY’s education reform agenda, under the direction of the Board of Regents and Commissioner King is not working. Revive will use data to push back.” UHM – but isn’t part of this fight we’re in all about excessive data collection – data collection that goes beyond FERPA? Who exactly will collect this data? Honestly, I have no more time in day to collect data for the glass tower dwellers to use.
  • WHERE WE STAND ON GOVERNOR CUOMO:  I’m going to be honest – this one scared me the most and continues to scare the crap out of me. I will let the REVIVE TEAM speak for themselves and you, dear reader, can draw your own conclusions: “Have you ever been so mad at your principal or superintendent that you did not talk to them for a couple of days? We all have. But have you ever gone months without speaking? ” “The REVIVE team recognizes that there is no support for an endorsement of the Governor, nor do we think he has earned one. This is not entirely the Governor’s fault. When the President of NYSUT does not meet the Governor to educate him about member concerns for months at a time we should not be surprised at the result. We will engage the Governor to address your concerns….hopefully to win him over. We will be the voice he cannot ignore; be it every week, day or hour until he understands our issues and concerns.”  

I fear these are dark days for NYSUT members …..unless you travel to Latham and join the “revival”.

Tri State/EQuIP Rubric

http://www.engageny.org/resource/tri-state-quality-review-rubric-and-rating-process

So, this little gem is finally making its way to my school, and I can’t contain my excitement!! Finally, all those folks at Achieve (http://www.achieve.org/contributors) have developed a rubric to let me know how well my lesson planning aligns to the “shifts and rigor of the Common Core.”

Of course, we all KNOW that the folks at Achieve have years of educational experience in writing and delivering lesson plans for students.

For me, the very best part is the fact that my prep time will be used for training in the rubric, writing lessons, and then having BOCES employees come and evaluate my lesson planning and my lessons! Again, this makes perfect sense to me because those folks that have been trained at one of NYSED’s “Network Training” sessions are absolutely experts! 

My concerns about being ‘evaluated’ by a BOCES employee were immediately dispelled when I was told through NYSUT that everyone is doing it.  Of course, NYSUT would be on the lookout for my welfare as a dues-paying union member right?

Silly old teacher that I am – thinking that my lesson planning should be tailored to meet the needs of the students in my classroom RIGHT NOW – no matter their development and abilities. How ridiculous that I would plan lessons based on their needs and interests. How absolutely crazy that I would consider using the upcoming Winter Olympic Games as a theme for teaching math, science, reading, writing, and social studies. Of course, it makes much more sense that I be on the same “page” as every other second grade teacher in NY State – following those beloved scripted lessons in the other lifesaver NYSED has provided me in MODULES.

The Many Faces of NYSUT

I am really confused by NYSUT these days.

A letter was printed in the Albany Times Union by the TEACHER OF THE YEAR whose face graces the cover of NYSUT UNITED. You can read his letter using this link: http://www.timesunion.com/opinion/article/Academic-excellence-to-the-core-4463752.php

But, wait……..isn’t NYSUT planning a RALLY on June 8? Why yes, indeed, Dick tells us : “It’s time to raise all our voices in unison to support public education. Educators, parents, students and community members will have the opportunity to speak as one.” 

So, NYSUT which is it? Do we LOVE the CCSS? Do we want parents, educators and students to support public education WITH the CCSS? Do we agree with Randi that there should simply be a moratorium on the testing? Do we think the CCSS were just “rolled out wrong?

What about the memo famously sent from Dick Iannuzzi telling teachers that we should be wary of discussing “opt out” with parents?

What about the news that was tweeted out of a listening tour that suddenly NYSUT’S crack legal team is looking into the confidentiality agreement that teachers had to sign before scoring tests?

What about Dick standing proudly with Andy when NYSUT agreed to the hell that is NY’s APPR?

What is NYSUT going to do about the impending destruction of completed tests – tests that will be used in that APPR to determine growth scores for its members?

Which face of NYSUT will we see tomorrow, the next day, the next week? Sorry, but this is NOT the way to instill confidence in your members, Dick!

They’re Starting to Feel It!

This is another of the many Messages from the Commissioner that just makes my blood boil!
I have deleted much of the message, and left this part all about the new COMMON CORE TESTS.
One has to ask, Why this sudden “push” to tell everyone that these new tests are so amazing?  Could it be that the powers in Albany are starting to HEAR US when we talk about having our children REFUSE to take the tests? Could it be that they are sort of like the Wizard that was just a sad fraud when the curtain was pulled back and not the “Wonderful Wizard” at all?
Reading this passage, on the heels of NYSUT’s “Listening Tour” and our own WNY4PE “Opt Out Forum” this past weekend, I’m guessing that we are finally being heard and taken seriously in Albany! Notice how the “Commish” reminds us that we all expect student scores to fall, but that no one expects it to adversely affect teacher, principal or school ratings.
Notice how he tells us (teachers, principals and anyone who subscribes to his updates) that he understands our stress. Notice how he makes a point about the CCSS being part of “Local Control”.
These are all LIES! Since APPR is in effect, the declining scores will most certainly affect ratings! How can they not, when it’s someone in Albany determining VAM scores? Local Control? That’s a lie too – there is NO MORE LOCAL CONTROL with the adoption of the CCSS! In fact, NYSED is producing a state – wide curriculum of “Modules” that are scripted an paced, and by the way even include a list of the books you’re supposed to have your students reading. To everyone who says “What’s the problem with Standards?”, I say – THIS IS THE PROBLEM WITH THE CCSS!! NYSED has, in fact, made them a curriculum – with no local input, no teacher input!!
Message from Commissioner King

So, what do Common Core assessments really mean? Here are five key points – emphasized in a recent field memo from Deputy Commissioner for P-12 Education Slentz – that should help address some frequently asked questions about the transition to the Common Core.

  1. In 2013, New York State, for the first time, will be reporting 3rd through 8th grade student grade-level expectations against a trajectory of college- and career-readiness as measured by tests fully reflective of the Common Core. As a result, the number of students who score at or above grade level expectations will likely decrease.
  2. As mentioned above, we expect the assessment scores will decline. But we also expect that decline will have little or no impact on principals’ and teachers’ State-provided growth scores. Based on New York’s approach to measuring growth relative to demographically similar students, similar proportions of educators will earn each rating category (Highly Effective, Effective, Developing, and Ineffective) in 2012-13 compared to 2011-12.
  3. The number of students meeting or exceeding Common Core grade-level expectations should not be interpreted as a decline in student learning or a decline in educator performance. The results from these new assessments will give educators, parents, policymakers, and the public a more realistic picture of where students are on their path to being well-prepared for the world that awaits them after they graduate from high school.
  4. No new districts will be identified as Focus Districts and no new schools will be identified as Priority Schools based on 2012-13 assessment results.
  5. Local policies and practices should balance the need for increased rigor against legitimate student expectations for access to educational programs, including local promotion and admission policies.

There’s much more information about the Common Core and the new assessments below and on EngageNY.org. Take a moment to check out what’s posted there. 

Again, I understand how stressful change can be, especially when you’re asking students to read more challenging texts, to better support their arguments with evidence drawn from text, to write from sources, to achieve deep conceptual understanding of the most important math concepts of each grade, and to apply their math skills to real-world problems. But we owe it to our students to move forward; opportunity awaits them and it’s our responsibility to make sure they’re equipped to seize that opportunity.

Thank you for your dedication and perseverance over these last three years and now as we continue to move forward to implement the Regents Reform Agenda. Our students, schools, communities, and state are all the better for the work you do every day.

 Dr. John B. King, Jr.

Interestingly, I also found out that today, this NYSUT Ad is running across the state. So, folks, now is the time to REALLY put the pressure on Albany. Go to http://www.nysut.org/testing and sign the petition. While you’re there……..take the opportunity to “Tell It Like It Is” – no worries if you don’t consider yourself an “educator”, you have the chance to let the “man behind the curtain” know that you’ve pulled the curtain back and see him for what he is – NO FRIEND OF PUBLIC EDUCATION!

I’m So Tired………..

I’m not just tired……….I AM EXHAUSTED!

  • It’s observation time for me and that means aligning a lesson to the Common BORE Standards, completing all the required paperwork, preparing the lesson, and using a prep period for my Pre-Observation Conference. Let me make this very clear: I am NOT opposed to observations at all! In fact, I wish that my Principal had the TIME to stop in my classroom on a regular basis and get to know my students, me, and see us all in action – even on my worst days. I am opposed to a contrived “dog and pony show” simply for the purpose of getting a “good” score.
  • I’m TIRED of hearing that teachers will NOT live in “Highly Effective” – only visit there once in a while, and on the other hand being told that EVERY SINGLE ONE of my students should be a pre-determined level if there is any hope of them doing “well” in school and on state tests.
  • I’m TIRED of watching GREAT teachers retire at their first chance because they just can’t take the beatings any more. Teachers with 20, 30 years of experience who still have plenty of “good years” in them and who WANT to teach are kissing it good-bye because of constant demoralization.
  • I’m TIRED of watching NYSUT play catch-up with their “Listening Tours” and “Member Action Center” begging members to inform them of the problems with CCSS, APPR and excessive testing. You know, if they had LISTENED to begin with – they would have heard us screaming to NOT give in to King Andy’s ridiculous demands.
  • I’m TIRED of the stories of parents being intimidated by NYSED and School Administrators when they decide to OPT their children OUT of unnecessary high stakes tests!
  • I’m TIRED of the outright THREATS coming from Albany, Commissioner King, and Governor Cuomo to hold back funding increases for schools that don’t just jump on their bandwagon.
  • I’m TIRED of engageny.org being touted as the “go to” place for CCSS aligned lessons, learning modules, and information, only to find that ONE UNIT of MATH for second grade is a scripted 300 page mess. There are NO ELA modules for PRE-K – 2 yet, and those trainings are set for AUGUST! Way to go NYSED – leave us hanging and then use your incompetence to somehow prove that teachers of young children aren’t “up to the challenge” of implementing CCSS.
  • I’m TIRED of school budget battles where programs for students and teachers are the ONLY things cut.
  • I’m TIRED of being encouraged to present material to my students that is developmentally inappropriate – for crying out loud – LET THEM BE KIDS!!
  • I’m TIRED of Response to Intervention – a process that has, in effect, withheld services from a student that I KNEW in October needed services – because we had to have DATA to prove what I KNEW about 6 weeks into the school year.
  • I’m TIRED of my years of experience and my Master’s Degree counting for NOTHING!
  • I’m TIRED of watching another district – this time Buffalo, NY – inviting TFA in while qualified and properly trained teachers sit waiting for the chance to TEACH!

UPDATED MAY 18

  • I sat at the Commencement Ceremonies of American University last Saturday and watched a young graduate with 2 degrees (in Political Science and Environmental Studies) win “The President’s Award” – the most prestigious award given at Commencement be applauded for “continuing a committment to public service” by signing up with TFA. I am tired of watching qualified EDUCATION MAJORS march across the stage wondering if they will get a chance to teach.
  • I am sick and tired of school district leaders who say “if one more teacher retires, we’ll be in really great shape financially.” WHAT THE HELL? Since there is no plan to replace the teacher, apparently financial concerns trump educational concerns.
  • Our district has a plan to move teachers into different classrooms. This wouldn’t be the end of the world, and I’m quite certain that it happens to lots of teachers every year, but in our little school – this is rare. This proposal – which was sort of dumped on us – is now up for debate and modification, but that means one more after school meeting where we will be asked to “leave our emotions at the door”. Sorry, but we aren’t robots – we have valid, developmentally appropriate concerns that have, so far, been brushed aside because they don’t fit with the “PLAN”.
  • As it always goes in our PreK – 12 school, I’m tired of the students in grades 7-12 being released from school on June 10, while the elementary kids come for full days until June 20. That, in itself, isn’t a horrible idea. However, we elementary teachers have the same amount of “work” to do – which could now include packing up our entire classroom to be moved while having students in those rooms all day. I’m tired of giving my time away for free – like somehow because I teach first grade, I don’t need time to complete grades and reports and folders and portfolios and pack without students in my room.
  • I’m tired of hearing that “PreK – 2” modules MIGHT be done by September, and being told that is what we’ll be using next year – and having no training (except training that I could volunteer to attend in August).

 

NY’s Education Reform Commission Report

Well, after months of “hard work” Governor Cuomo’s Education Reform Commission has issued a 92 page report that details how NY will suddenly be “Putting Students First.” Does that title have anyone besides me noticing the similarities to Michelle Rhee’s “Students First” group?

What are the “grand plans” of our Governor to improve education in NY? Well, you can read the  full report, but I recommend skipping right to page 86, where the summary is show with a handy dandy Venn Diagram!

Allow me, if you will, to interpret just a few phrases in the report:

1. Raise the bar for entry into the profession. and Hold programs accountable to prepare teachers and leaders for the classroom and school.  – Randi’s idea that there be a “bar exam” to become a teacher is taking hold. Besides all the other costly testing and renewable certification that teachers now have to endure, there will be a ‘bar exam’. Get ready professors – they’re coming after YOU now! If your program doesn’t sufficiently prepare the next teachers, my guess is that you will have a negative VAM rating or perhaps could even be shut down. Of course, why worry – we have TFA and the Broad Foundation with their “boot camps” to train those teachers and leaders, right?

2. Recognize and reward teachers and principals – You got it – MERIT PAY! And I’m guessing that it will be based on student test scores. So, if you teach a grade or subject without a test, there are two possibilities: You will NEVER get merit pay OR the more likely – there will soon be a state test for you too!

3. Begin to restructure the school day and year by extending student learning time. –  Hey, I almost ‘get’ this one. We all know that there is some regression over the summer months, and that typically our students from low SES families regress the most. I honestly don’t have a problem with restructuring the school year to minimize this, BUT, I do wonder – where will all the air conditioning come from? Will this mean that our schools will no longer be saunas beginning in May? Will we have infrastructure changes so that students and teachers can be in a comfortable environment? Unless you’ve tried to teach in a room where the temperature is pushing 90 or 100, you probably don’t see the need for this.

4. Promote increased access to educational opportunities by encouraging school district restructuring through consolidation and regional high schools. – If you have ever visited any small K-12 rural school in NY, you know that there is indeed, something different about them. It is a tight-knit community of teachers, students, parents, administrators, and community. These schools are the jewels of many a small town in NY. No, they may not offer 15 AP classes, but for the most part, there are plenty of opportunities for students to explore a wide variety of classes and extra-curricular activities. Additionally, it is almost always the small, rural schools that pass their budgets with tax increases that some suburban schools find shocking. Why? Well, the school IS the town – without the school, the  identity of an entire community is gone.

I will leave the rest for you, dear reader, to interpret on your own. Perhaps you’ll find something “good” in this report. Perhaps you’ll be outraged. Whatever the case, if you have kids in schools in NY or teach in NY, you really SHOULD read this report.

Here is the official NYSUT response. Of course, I would be remiss to not include the AFT responsehttp://www.aft.org/newspubs/press/2013/010213a.cfm   as well.